Tom Braslavsky: Giving Greek life a chance

It’s been a tense time for Greek life at GW.

With the news that three Greek-life chapters are being charged with hazing and alcohol violations, and with the prospect of punishments being announced for some of those chapters, GW’s fraternities and sororities have seen better days. But mistakes by individual organizations should not outweigh the tremendous benefits of the Greek-life community as a whole, and students should give Greek life a chance as it works to repair its on-campus rapport.

A Sept. 20 editorial in The Hatchet urged fraternities and sororities to be cautious and act responsibly with their newfound prominence on campus. Unfortunately, it seems that not all Greek organizations or individuals necessarily took heed of this advice at the time.

Upon her arrival at GW in November, new Greek-life director Christina Witkowicki was tasked with dealing with allegations of hazing in some Greek-life chapters that shook the whole GW community. Rumors and accusations of hazing within some fraternities and sororities hurt the relationship that the Greek-life organizations had cultivated with the University and students. Additional controversy arose last semester when Interfraternity Council President Bill Hulse resigned in October after a scandal and widespread disapproval by fraternity presidents over his leadership.

Even with some bad press, however, the current semester has already shown positive signs. Witkowicki’s noted focus on alcohol and hazing education is an important step in making sure chapters have the knowledge to prevent further scandals. The new IFC board has come in fresh and in its first meeting voted unanimously in favor of implementing a “self-governance policy.” Still pending approval by Student Judicial Services, this policy would ensure that fraternity violations are dealt with appropriately and would grant accountability to IFC member organizations.

Fraternities and sororities want to avoid at all costs another embarrassment to the Greek-life community, and they are committed to sticking to the rules.

Twenty-five percent of GW students involved in Greek life cannot simply be ignored, and as a brother in an on-campus fraternity, I can attest to Greek life’s lasting benefits. With over 150 years of history at GW, fraternities and sororities have produced leaders across campus and beyond. Members of fraternities and sororities hold prominent on-campus positions. For example, last spring, all six candidates for SA executive offices were members of Greek life. Alumni networks in these organizations can help build connections for students, assisting in the search for internships or post-college jobs. Greek life is so important on campus that D.C. Mayor Vince Gray highlighted his own GW fraternity experience at his inauguration. Gray, who rose to become the first black member – and then two-term president – of his historically Jewish fraternity, is an example of how rich Greek life’s history is.

Every semester, fraternities and sororities on campus raise thousands of dollars for philanthropies and do thousands of hours of community service. Last semester, fraternity members spearheaded the “I’m Gay for Today” protest campaign against the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church. These components are just as much a part of being in a fraternity or sorority as the social and athletic events.

The challenge now is for these organizations to live up to their commitment and not let the University and students down again. Greek life at GW is at a crossroads: being responsible and treating members with respect can reinforce the community’s position on campus. Additional mistakes and failures could further hurt future prospects.

Whether in the IFC, the Panhellenic Council, the Multicultural Greek Council, or the Professional, Honor and Service Greek Council, these organizations make a profound impact on our University and its students. Don’t let a few mistakes tarnish your view of a whole sector of the University community. Give Greek life a chance.

-The writer, a junior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist and a member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.

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